Court Ruling on Facebook “Like” Creates New Policy Issues

On Wednesday the Forth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Facebook “Likes” were protected as free speech under the First Amendment. This ruling creates new policy issues for social media managers and public relations practitioners.

The court reversed a ruling by a Federal District Judge, Raymond A. Jackson, who dismissed a lawsuit in 2012 on the grounds that a Facebook “like” was insufficient speech to be protected by the constitution.

In the ruling the Court stated “In sum, liking a political candidate’s campaign page communicates the user’s approval of the candidate and supports the campaign by associating the user with it. In this way, it is the Internet equivalent of displaying a political sign in one’s front yard, which the Supreme Court has held is substantive speech”.

This decision follows a growing trend to protect the rights of employee’s engaging in social media. Several organizations including the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) have issued several decisions regarding social media policy and have created helpful guidelines for employers. Generally speaking, social media policy cannot freeze an employee’s right to organize, bargain collectively, and improve their working conditions.

Communication Policy

This ruling breaks new ground in determining what constitutions free speech in an online environment. In the past the Courts have declared that written Facebook posts were protected by the First Amendment, but this is the first ruling regarding simple “Like” button is a different and abbreviated form of expression.

Considering that public relations professionals are often involved in the creation of social media policy, it is important to stay informed about court rulings regarding social media when reviewing and developing your social media policy.

Undoubtedly more cases will be brought before the courts in the future and the definition of free speech in an online environment will change. PR practitioners need to work closely with legal advisers and take into consideration court decisions and the NLRB guidelines when developing social media policy.

The new ruling and decisions by the NLRB does not mean that you should avoid creating social media policies. Specific and well-crafted social media polices protect both the employee’s right to free speech and the employer.

Disclaimer: This information contained herein is for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice.


5 Easy Tips to Step Up Your LinkedIn Game

LinkedIn can be a very powerful tool for professional networking if used effectively. Here are five easy tips to step up your game.

Complete Your Profile

LinkedIn, unlike Facebook, is a business oriented social network. Potential business contacts want to collect as much background information as possible. List your complete educational background, past employers, skill sets, and professional organizations. Don’t forget to add a profile picture, including a headshot allows people to put a name with a face. Concerned about privacy? You can change your settings so that only connections can see your headshot.

Post Regular Updates

Why are you on LinkedIn? What are you working on? Unless your work is classified, posting regular updates will keep potential business contacts (and future employers) informed about your work. Updates are a great way to showcase your productivity.

Join Groups

LinkedIn groups provide another opportunity to establish new connections and keep abreast of trends in your industry. When searching for the best groups think about keywords specific to your industry or profession. After you join a group don’t be a troll, actively participate. You won’t build any new connections by sitting alone in the corner.

Add Backlinks

LinkedIn allows you to add three links to your profile. Backlinks are helpful in increasing your SEO and will help you increase your page rank with search engines like Google and Bing. Backlinks are also another way to encourage potential connections to check-out your webpage or portfolio.

Try Premium

LinkedIn is a free social media network, however it also offers premium plans with a number of valuable features. The most affordable business plan ($19.95 monthly) offers you a chance to see who’s viewed your profile, direct messaging tools, an expanded number of introductions, and a convenient reference search. Take a test drive of the premium service, you never know what opportunities await.


Twitter Lead Generation Cards Cut Clutter

Today Twitter launched a new feature, Lead Generation Cards. Twitter Cards allow users to express interest in a company’s promotional offer. Twitter developers have listened to marketers and realized the importance of eliminating link clutter and increasing leads.

How it Works

By expanding a tweet users will see additional information about the promotion. The user simply has to click on a button and personal details (@username and email) will be sent automatically to the business.

The One Screen Rule

In a recent article at the Harvard Business Review, Mitch Joel predicted that the future is all about one screen. “The future is not about three screens or four screens or fourteen screens. It’s about one screen: whichever screen is in front of me,” said Mitch Joel, president of Twist Image. We juggle a number of different screens, laptop or desktop for work, a tablet for media consumption, a smartphone for calls, and the television for entertainment. Users want simplicity and convenience.

It’s all about convergence and the ability to access all of your information on one screen. Twitter appears to be thinking about convergence with the launch of  Lead Generation Cards. This move is a step in the right direction.


Lead Generation Cards offer a wide range of possibilities for public relations professionals. Pre-product orders, interest measurement, and the identification of early adopters, are just a few applications of this new feature.

Currently, Lead Generation Cards appear to be limited to a select number of Twitter accounts. “Today, the Lead Generation Card will only be available to our managed clients; we have plans to launch this Card globally and to small- and medium-sized businesses soon.” said Mitali Pattnick, Product Manager at Twitter.

It’s just a matter of time before Twitter makes this feature available to a wider range of clients.


Top 10 Free Social Media Tools

Social Media is a commitment. It requires constant monitoring and special attention. Over the past decade social media measurement has evolved from collecting simple statistics to predicting trends, extracting intelligence, and responding to consumer needs.

In PR we know good strategic planning involves identifying your target publics, competitors, and stakeholders. Social media can be a useful tool in identifying these publics, however you need to determine the right tool(s) for the job. For solo PR professionals or small firms here are 10 free social media tools that can help you identify your key publics and help you achieve those strategic objectives.

1.Buffer | Is an online application that allows you to schedule tweets and measure their success. Buffer will analyze your followers and suggest scheduling recommendations for your posts.

2. Google Alerts |Google Alerts have been around for a long time, but still serves as an excellent environmental scanning tool. Google will track specific keywords and send you an email alert whenever relevant information is added to Google.

3. HooteSuite | Provides an all-in-one management system for your social media accounts. The free plan allows you to add up to 5 accounts, gives you basic scheduling features and analytical reports.

4. Social Mention | Is a real-time analysis app that aggregates content from across the Internet. It offers basic sentiment analysis of web content (i.e., negative, neutral, positive) and daily email alerts for your brand or company.

5. Pluggio | Is a Twitter and Facebook management app that helps users keep track of multiple accounts, automate tweets and follow-backs/thanks, and provide friend suggestions.

6. Mention | A robust media monitoring app that will track mentions of you or your brand name across social media and the web. Think of it as an alternative to Google Alerts.

7. Bit.ly | Tracking link traffic is an often overlooked part of social media measurement. Bit.ly is a link shorting service that provides you with data including the number of link clicks, who shared the link, and the geographic distribution of clicks.

8. Dlvr.it | A central part of content creation is distribution. Dlvr.it will monitor your website or blog and automatically post your content to social media (Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn) networks.

9. ManageFilter | Offers users a set of easy to use tools so that you can sort your followers/lists, know when your followers are most active, schedule tweets, and track keywords

10. Social Crawlytics | Is a social media tool that analyzes URLs. It can tell you how many times your page was shared and on what social media platform.

iPhone Apps

5 Great Apps for PR Pros

Smartphones are now an ever-present part of our daily lives. They serve as a virtual extension of our abilities and within the field of public relations they are important tools to stay connected. If you’re not sure about what apps to download, start with these five.

Media Scanning

Media consumption is a daily part of public relations. Keeping track of news, business trends, pop culture, technology and other information is essential because of its potential impact on our clients. The amount of information can be overwhelming.

Luckily one app, Pulse, (Free – iPhone, Android) can help you manage your information intake. Pulse is a RSS reader app that lets you subscribe to relevant information feeds (blogs, magazines, news outlets). It has a very pleasing visual layout, allows you to sync feeds across devices and offers intuitive social media integration.


Most PR professionals travel, whether it’s the morning commute or a trans-contentinal flight we need accurate up-to-date information to keep us going. FlightTrack Pro  ($9.99 – iPhone, Android) is a great app for finding flights and will alert you about any flight changes. Although the basic FlightTrack app is free the pro version offers a number of additional features (weather updates, baggage claim information, seating info and calendar syncing) that are very useful and worth the added cost.


Sometimes it is critical to have a last minute meeting before you send out a news release or hold a press conference. GoToMeeting (Free – iPhone, Android) is a great app that allows you to quickly conduct an on-the-fly meeting with your team. The app allows you to show slide presentations, spreadsheets or reports on-screen.

Social Media

Odds are you have multiple social media accounts. Because its hard to just choose one, here are two apps to simplify your social media world. Tweetbot ($2.99 – iPhone) is a great alternative to the native Twitter app found on the iPhone and offers a number of features (muting by keyword and client, unified searching multiple accounts) that every power user needs. In terms of Facebook, one app still provides great support for updating fans on the go, Pages Manager (Free – iPhone, Android)  Pages allows users to post new updates, add photos and receive basic measurement stats.

Design Applications

Imagine this scenario. You’re at a press party and have just captured a great photo with your smartphone. You are live tweeting the event and you want to post it quickly to your social media feed. The only problem is that the photo is a little fuzzy and needs to be cropped. Enter Adobe Photoshop Express (Free – iPhone, Android). Photoshop express will allow you to perform simple but powerful edits (cropping, rotating, color correction, and filters) quickly and easily.

What are your favorite apps for PR work? Let me know in the comments below.


3 Tips for Social Media Security

Jeep, Burger King, McDonalds. Although these three names may at first appear unrelated, if you have watched any recent news, you probably are aware of the recent hacking attacks on these three organizations.

Regardless of the industry, hacking attacks are a very real threat to a businesses’ online security and reputation. According to Symantec’s 2012 Norton Cybercrime Report, worldwide cybercrime cost both business and consumers an estimated $110 billion annually. When malicious individuals start targeting social media accounts it’s a good time to evaluate your social media security strategy. Below are three simple security tips to consider when accessing your social media accounts outside of the workplace.

Public WiFi Hotspots

WiFi hotspots are everywhere, they can be found at coffee shops, airports, libraries and even fast-food restaurants. Although WiFi hotspots may appear innocent, these networks are an open invitation for trouble. You have no way of knowing whether the WiFi hotspot is secure and even if it is the “real” network setup by the business. Hackers can easily set-up duplicate WiFi networks pretending to be a business and simply wait for unsuspecting users to connect. Just because a WiFi network’s SSID looks legitimate doesn’t mean its the real deal.

As a PR professional you need to use common sense when thinking about using an open WiFi hotspot. Treat all hotspots as security risks. If you decide to use a hotspot you should limit the amount of activity and take additional security steps such as employing a virtual private network before connecting.

Virtual Private Network

A second security tactic that you can employ to keep your social media updates more secure is a virtual private network or VPN. A VPN allows users to send and receive encrypted data and prevents other users from pishing your data. The National Security Agency (NSA) even recommends employing personal VPNs as a best practice to keep your devices secure.

VPN software can be found on most mobile operating systems including iOS and Android. Using a VPN can greatly increase the security of your device when sending that last minute tweet. Your IT department would be more than happy to help you set-up this easy security measure.

Passwords and More Passwords

Our final security tip involves examining what most people would consider the first line of defense, passwords. “Passwords are, by and large, not a great security paradigm. They’re easy to forget, often pretty easy to guess, and a hassle to use.” said Jon Xavier, Web-Producer of Silicon Valley Business Journal.

Passwords should be only one cog in your social media security policy. Many social media platforms such as Facebook offer a two-factor authentication that requires additional information. This can significantly increase your social media security.

Beyond multiple authentication measures, your social media account passwords should be changed periodically and you should have a different password for each social media account. A common/shared password can jeopardize multiple accounts. Another common suggestion is to avoid the short “1234″ or common “password” passwords. The length of the password and use of additional characters (numbers, special characters) can help deter hackers.  A good password does not equal security, however it helps protect your online accounts and password guidelines should be included in your online or social media policy.

Common Sense

Although the above steps can increase the security of your social media activity, it is important to remember that individuals are the weakest link in your social media security. Proactive education can inform your employees of the online risks and best security practices. In addition, PR professionals should plan in advance for a hacking attack, this falls into the 86% of predictable/smoldering crises and work with both IT and administration to establish a reaction plan to activate when necessary. Keep in mind however, it is impossible to have a completely secure social media environment. It’s not called “private” media.